The Cockpit Country issue: a prospecting licence in Jamaica’s Maroon Lands?

Cockpit Country is under threat, as never before. Here is another development, which needs some clarification and explanation. Jamaica Environment Trust shared their new concerns, today.

JET calls on the Government to honor its commitments not to mine Cockpit Country

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is dismayed that after the Prime Minister’s announcement in 2017 of a boundary for the Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) and his promise to close the area to mining, the Mines and Geology Division (MGD) has now announced a new Special Exclusive Prospecting Licence which at several points falls within the boundary of the CCPA and includes land belonging to the Accompong Maroons (Figure 1 and 2).

When Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement on November 21, 2017, he explicitly said that bauxite mining would not be allowed within the CCPA boundary. He also stated that if any existing Special Mining Leases (SMLs) and Special Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (SEPLs) fell within the CCPA boundary, they would need to be modified. On September 29, 2021 a notice from Mines and Geology Division (MGD) in the newspaper indicated that JISCO ALPART JAMAICA of Old Spur Tree Road, Spur Tree P.O. Manchester applied for a licence to prospect for bauxite mining under SEPL 643. The notice did not include a sketch plan of the area but did include coordinates. Dr. Susan Koenig of Windsor Research Centre (WRC) was able to map the proposed licence area using the published coordinates and descriptions. It showed that SEPL 643 not only covered the majority of the Appleton Valley area, but encroached on the CCPA boundary several times (Figure 1 and 2).

This map shows the various Special Mining Leases and Special Exclusive Prospecting Licenses that stakeholders are aware of, in 2021.

Dr. Susan Koenig of WRC has expressed her dismay. “If this notice proves to be correct, then WRC considers that to be an egregious abuse of the public’s trust that GoJ promised to close Cockpit Country to bauxite mining.   We also believe this to be a retraction of the Government’s ‘Duty of Care’ to protect Jamaicans from environmental harm”, said Dr. Koenig.

Dr. Rodriguez-Moodie, JET’s CEO said “This has to be some kind of mistake on the part of MGD. I cannot imagine that following the Prime Minister’s announcement the MGD would even consider granting a licence in the CCPA, especially knowing that the lease area includes Maroon lands.” She went on, “ We cannot continue to be so careless in how we manage this important area. We have seen and heard of so many examples of communities being devastated and livelihoods lost by this industry. Our leaders cannot continue to speak when they are abroad of caring for our environment and people while allowing such destruction at home”.

JET intends to continue its efforts in raising awareness about the issues surrounding the costs of bauxite mining. We will join with other concerned stakeholders, including those who live and work in the area to prevent the clear and present danger posed by bauxite mining and processing. Finally, we ask the Government to honour its commitment to not mine Cockpit Country and to include a buffer zone as proposed in the 2013 study by Webber and Noel of the University of the West Indies.

The area covered by Special Exclusive Prospecting Licence 643, for which JISCO Alpart Jamaica has applied. As you can see, it encroaches not only on Accompong Maroon lands but also on the 2017 Cockpit Country Protected Area boundary itself.

Map Legend – Accompong 1868:   In April 1796, a bill was tabled in the House of Assembly to “Ascertain and Establish the boundaries of Trelawny Town, and to settle and allot one thousand acres for Accompong’s town, and to ascertain the boundaries thereof.” (Carey Robinson, 2007. The Iron Thorn: the defeat of the British by the Maroons. LMH Publishing, Ltd.) The area of Accompong was resurveyed in November 1868 and found to contain 1,200 acres.

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